A fascinating look inside the war on human trafficking...
This town of Anlong Veng is in northern Cambodia near the Thai border, with a large military presence; it feels like something out of the Wild West. Somaly, whose efforts are financed mostly through American supporters of her Somaly Mam Foundation, had sneaked into this brothel and surreptitiously photographed very young girls. With the photographs, she convinced Cambodia’s anti-trafficking police to mount the raid.
It didn’t help my nerves that Somaly, whom I’ve known for years, is fearless. Brothel-owners have fought back ferociously against Somaly: They’ve sent death threats, held a gun to her head and shot up her car.
“We all know that our lives are in danger,” she says, a little too cavalierly. “I’ve never been so happy in my life. They can kill me now.”
When Somaly refused to back off, she said the traffickers kidnapped her 14-year-old daughter and gang-raped the girl with a video camera rolling. The daughter was recovered in a brothel, and Somaly blames herself. It’s a credit to the courage of mother and daughter that they remain steadfast, upbeat and close, and determined to make a difference. These days, Somaly is very careful with that daughter and her other children.
The three unmarked police cars ahead of us pulled up in front of the brothel...
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